Break Out of That Paper Prison!

California police department automates processes

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STATE/LOCAL GOV'T Until last summer, dispatchers and officers of the Burlingame, Calif., Police Department felt imprisoned, not by steel bars, but by the reams of paper that surrounded them.

The department's personnel often were forced to root through files to provide crime victims with copies of police reports, to add information to a file or to determine the results of a fellow officer's investigation, says police officer Ronda Caine, who oversees IT for the police department.

"If a lab test came in, you'd make a copy of it and send it back to the detectives. Frequently, because another copy was kept in the actual case jacket,since it was just for their information,they'd look at it and then throw it away," Caine recalls. "It was our only way of notifying them that this work had been done or there was a disposition from the court. There was a lot of paper wasted, which I hope we're saving now."

LR Hines Consulting was all-too-familiar with the paper jail of which many organizations were prisoners. For the past year, the Roseville, Calif.-based VAR has focused exclusively on integrating documents, according to Lonnie Hines, president and CEO of the 6-year-old company. "This last year, I made a strategic decision to get out of the networking field and focus 100 percent on document imaging with LaserFiche," he says. "We do a lot of custom development, as well."

The company's LaserFiche document-imaging system and the police department crossed paths at an event organized by one of the user's other vendors, Caine says. "The reason we chose LaserFiche is because our CAD and Records system vendor has worked closely with that product, so they can integrate the two together," she says. "The concept here at Burlingame is to have everything integrated so we have a seamless flow of information."

One downside of targeting the government is the length of the sales cycle. LR Hines first demonstrated LaserFiche to the Burlingame Police Department about three years ago, Hines says. But it was only last year that the department received a grant that allowed it to invest in this solution, he notes. "Getting funding was probably the biggest [challenge]," Hines says.

Although LR Hines normally recommends buying a separate database server, the solution provider designed a system that relied on the police department's new server. "It was a way to maximize their existing system," Hines says. At first, the VAR sold one scanner, but quickly added a second scanning station, he says.

The CAD and Records system was integrated with the document-imaging solution via Web browser. "That part of it was really simple," Hines says. "They were able to define the level of integration they wanted. Especially on the Web browser, it's very easy to interface with LaserFiche. [In fact], the biggest selling point with LaserFiche is its ease of use."

Over the course of two to three weeks, LR Hines worked closely with the police department to customize features such as folders, searches and index folders, Hines says.

Training also was easy, says Police Clerk III Colleen Villegas.

LR Hines and the police department are looking forward to eliminating additional paper from the environment. "Once we're to the point where we can do all the report writing in the computer and connect with LaserFiche,not have to scan,it'll be a really big plus," Villegas says. "[Officers] will be able to look at it on the screen when they're on the street. If there's something they need to know, it'll be right there."

Alison Diana ( is a freelance technology writer based in Merritt Island, Fla.

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